Whenever we talk about redoing an area of the garden, Mark always begins the conversation by saying "Show me." What he means is make a drawing, preferably to scale. That's how he works but it is not my approach. If I absolutely have to I will do it.
So that's how I began my redesign of the moss garden this time. Luckily he had done a sketch of the area and its main features (below) which I could then use with tracing paper overlays to draw out my ideas.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I suggested we add some kind of seating to this area since the deck is our only real seating other than a few "sitting stones" here and there. We've decided to add the type of shelter used for stopping and sitting on the way to a Tea House (the yellow rectangle stuck on the drawing above).
Mark had wanted to build one of these "waiting benches," as he calls them, in the front garden years ago and I talked him out of it. The moss garden is now the perfect spot to put it. The structure will take up planting space as will paths to and from it. Once I would have railed against losing garden space, now I am happy to see it go.
The structure thus became the starting point for a planting plan: We would add the shelter and keep the remaining apple tree, along with a Carolina Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus 'Hartlage Wine, above)' and a yew globe that have been in place for a few years. Those mean I already have some background height and structural plants to contrast with what I plan to add.
Roy Diblik's book, "The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden," had been sitting out for months so I picked it up while I was musing on how to redo this area. I had not thought of Roy as someone who might have a solution for me since I am more familiar with his sunny plantings like many of those at his Northwind Nursery.
But among the planting schemes in the back of his book were a number of ideas for shade. I liked one he calls "The Fernery," with three kinds of Carex plants and two varieties of ferns (above). Diblik also noted that other perennials like Geranium maculatum, Virginia bluebells or Blue Cohosh could easily be interplanted in this matrix.
The moss garden is across the path from a large swath of Carex, Iris and Umbrella grass. I decided that more grassy foliage was not what I wanted. So I am replacing his Carex with a number of different varieties of Geranium phaeum. The flower colors and shapes are all slightly different but the appearance of the foliage is similar enough that the group should read as one.
I'm going to intersperse the Geraniums with the ferns he suggested: Dryopteris marginalis (Leatherwood fern) and Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern). I grow both of these ferns so I know they will perform well and provide the necessary contrast.
At this stage I have only drawn out the area on the right side of the apple tree. The area to the left will be where the structure will go. That means little or no planting can happen there until the construction project is finished.
I made some rough pencil notes reminding myself that I want to add couple more yew balls on that side. We have used Box and Yew balls throughout the garden (below) and I don't think this area should be an exception, now that it is no longer going to be devoted to one thing — namely moss.
The total number of plants Diblik uses in his 10' x 14' design is 62, which was a bit of a shock when I added the numbers up and started calculating the cost. The area I want to fill is similar in size, but I'm not totally starting from scratch. There are the things I mentioned above already in place. The Geranium phaeums will each generally cover more territory than the Carexes.
I am excited to add more Geraniums and ferns as they are two of my favorite plants and have done well for me with few if any problems. The biggest issue with this project is that I can't really do anything until late April. So I just sit at the desk, read books, look at the garden and imagine what it will look like in its new form.
NOTE: Double click the photos to enlarge them if you want to see any details.